What is Gross Misconduct: And how to properly manage it?

Gross misconduct in the workplace can be extremely distressing to deal with. In a rush to protect your business and staff from any further harm, it’s likely you’ll want to dismiss the employee responsible immediately, avoiding any lengthy procedure.

But what counts as gross misconduct? What do you need to consider when you’re hurrying to end a contract? And how can you ensure your employment documents are in order, so that you’re as prepared as you can be for dealing with an incident of employee misconduct?

In this post we’ll guide you through the key points to be aware of.

What is gross misconduct?

A key identifier of gross misconduct is behaviour that irreparably damages your working relationship with the staff member involved. This could be harassment, bullying, theft, the assault of an employee, or a deliberate leak of vital company information.

Something that could put the company at risk of financial damages, or something that adversely affects the safety of your team, might also be considered gross misconduct.

If a member of staff’s behaviouris gross misconduct, they can be dismissed without notice. This is known as a summary dismissal.

It’s important to set out what you consider to be gross misconduct in your disciplinary code (usually part of your disciplinary procedure) so your employee is on notice of how you will treat their behaviour. If it is listed in your disciplinary procedure, it will help you defend any decision to dismiss an employee on these grounds.

What are examples of gross misconduct?

Examples of gross misconduct include:

•  Grossly indecent or immoral behaviour
•  Deliberate acts of unlawful discrimination or serious acts of harassment
•  Dangerous behaviour, fighting or physical assault
•  Incapacity at work or poor performance caused by intoxicants or drugs
•  Possession, supply or use of illicit drugs

What’s the difference between misconduct and gross misconduct?

Gross misconduct is serious enough to dismiss on the first offence, whereas misconduct is likely to involve giving the employee a second chance.

Examples of misconduct include:

• Lateness
• Unsatisfactory standards of work
• Rudeness towards clients, members of the public, or other employees
• Unauthorized use of computer equipment, email and Internet

The lines between categories are blurry, though. It can be difficult to determine whether a behavior should be classed as gross misconduct or not. That’s why it is always recommended to seek expert HR advice, as getting it wrong could result in an employment tribunal claim.

How to deal with gross misconduct

If someone has committed gross misconduct, you can dismiss them without notice as they will have breached their contract of employment. However, it is rare that you will have a situation where you can dismiss fairly on the spot without any form of investigation.

As such, we recommend you adopt a procedure which involves a proper impartial investigation, holding a disciplinary meeting before making a decision. It’s also important to give the employee a chance to appeal a decision to dismiss them.

Suspending an employee under investigation for gross misconduct

It’s often reasonable to suspend an employee on full pay if you’re investigating them gross misconduct and their presence at work could detrimentally impact your business or interfere with the investigation.

If you’re at all unsure about how manage a member of staff you feel has acted with gross misconduct, we recommend seeking expert Employment Law advice to help you stay on the right side of the law.

Karin Henson is an Employment Law specialist and can help support you during a disciplinary process. Give us a call on 0121 392 7479 or use our contact form here

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